Several Wall High School football players charged with hazing and sex offenses related to locker room attacks last fall have entered into plea agreements that drop the most serious charges of sexual contact and ultimately could clear their names entirely, NJ Advance Media has learned.
At least five of the seven players charged in November agreed in separate proceedings this month to plead guilty to juvenile charges of hazing and harassment. Under the terms of those deals, the charges of criminal sexual contact and false imprisonment are immediately dismissed, according to two sources familiar with the matter who asked not to be named due to its confidential nature.
Under what’s known as a deferred disposition contained in the agreement, even the remaining hazing and harassment charges will be dropped if the players successfully complete probationary periods ranging from six months to a year, the sources said.
The players were all juveniles at the time of the incidents, and their identities have never been made public by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, which charged the players in Family Court in Freehold. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office declined to comment on Thursday.
The charges stem from a series of attacks that occurred in the Wall High School locker room before practice in September and October.
In one of multiple video clips of the incidents viewed by NJ Advance Media, as many as five players hold a victim by the arms and legs, as he fights desperately to free himself, before another assailant uses a broom handle to poke him on the buttocks between his legs. In another clip, what appears to be a different victim is pinned down on the locker room floor and poked with a finger through his shorts by an attacker.
The agreements apply to five of the seven players who were charged and require them to perform community service and to undergo anti-bullying training, according to the sources, who did not provide details. Information on the sixth player was not available.
A seventh accused player, who had also been charged with sexual assault in separate incidents involving female students off-campus, was not offered the same agreement, according to the sources. They said they could not comment on the status of the sexual assault case, and the prosecutor’s office has declined to talk about it since announcing those charges.
Wall Board of Education President Ralph Annunziato declined to comment on the plea agreements or whether the students would be eligible to play football this fall, citing student confidentiality rules.
Deborah Gramiccioni, a lawyer and former family court judge who represented Wall football players not charged with hazing, said she could not comment specifically on the accused players’ cases.
But speaking generally, Gramiccioni said deferred disposition can be a restorative way of addressing this kind of situation. She said that typically it is not offered to young offenders deemed to pose a threat to the public or classmates.
“It allows children, and it allows families, to move forward without labels and without a juvenile record, because the charges are dismissed at the expiration of the deferred disposition period,” Gramiccioni said.
Aside from the criminal charges against the seven players, the hazing scandal resulted in a premature end to the Wall Crimson Knights’ 2021 football season, the suspension of the district’s athletic director Thomas Ridoux and several district staffers who were also assistant coaches, and the firing or head football coach Anthony Grandinetti.
But while the plea agreements may put much of the criminal side of the scandal to rest, the civil phase has barely begun.
Notices of tort claim have been filed by a lawyer for three hazing victims, formally advising the district of their intent to file negligence suits for allowing players to go unsupervised in the locker room.
The tort notices assert that players attempted to sexually penetrate their targeted teammate, though only one alleges an attempt by players to put their hands down the victim’s pants. The lawyer for the victims, Armen McOmber, declined to comment on Thursday.
NJ Advance Media staff writer Kevin Shea contributed to this report.
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